In The Passenger Seat: Kenneth Mark Yong, Founder of Love Classic Rides

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Photo 2020 08 21 12 01 56(Photo: Jace Tan)

Kenneth Mark Yong, founder of Love Classic Rides, did not have it easy growing up. He had to work from a young age and wanted to start a business on his own. After multiple failed attempts, he succeeded. What changed? Well, he found his passion.

After many years of struggling, he succeeded in restoration projects and importing of classic cars into Singapore. His passion drove him to who he is today, a hardworking car enthusiast and a businessman aiming to share his dream with others in the automotive scene.

Meet Kenneth Mark Yong, a classic car enthusiast and collector:

(Video: Jace Tan)

What is in your classic car collection?

I have a few classic cars that I keep and a few that I share with my good friends. It was natural for me to share the cars as my friends wanted to own one and they could enjoy doing that now. My collection now consists of 1985 Skyline 280GTX, 1958 Mercedes Benz W105 Ponton 219, 1967 Mercedes Benz W108 250s, VW Safari 1600 soft top, 1968 Daimler Sovereign 420.

(Video: Jace Tan)

What was your first imported car to kick-start your journey?

Photo 2020 08 21 12 02 29(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

My first car was a Porsche 1982 V8 928 4.7l manual. It was imported from South Africa and I spent around $40,000 repairing and restoring it. My favourite features are the pop-up headlights and 50:50 ratio. I even drove it to Malacca and back clocking over 500 km with a good friend for Mini’s 60th Anniversary gathering. It was a wonderful drive for my 38-year-old 928.

Fun fact: This car was built to replace the Porsche 911 but it never did as it was too costly and there was a recession then. Hence, not many were made so it is quite a rare car.

Which car is your favourite?

After all these years I still go back to BMWs. Currently, I have a manual 1992 e36 BMW saloon and a BMW 1990 e32 730il as my daily drives but the e36 would be my favourite. I dated my wife in one back then too!

When did you start collecting classic cars?

Photo 2020 08 21 12 02 20(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

I started more than three years ago when an old pal introduced me to the idea of collecting old cars. The idea of buying them as barn finds and then restoring them back to their glory days sounded great but the journey was costly. I started to read and educate myself from the internet. I joined classic car groups and learned from the veterans, making many friends along the way.

What inspired you to start your business of importing and collecting classic cars?

Initially, I imported the first three vehicles using a broker and paid handsome amounts for the broking fees. However, looking ahead it made more sense to have a company to do it on my own to save me some cost and help others bring in classic cars.

To grow my passion for classic cars, I started a Facebook and Instagram (@loveclassicrides) group for classic car lovers and starters, hoping people will share their experiences, host meetups and educate people who are new to the scene as well.

What is your ultimate dream car?

81da1834a9aeb037b350478678193929(Photo: bringatrailer)

A 1992 BMW 850csi with a V12 engine. To me, the design of the car looks way ahead of its time, even by today’s standards. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until 2027, when the car turns 35 years old, to import one under the classic car scheme. Also, owning one will cost you a bomb is Singapore because of the road tax and insurance.

You own the first Daimler Sovereign 420 in Singapore and it is a beauty. Why hasn’t there been more?

Daimler(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

Yes, I do! This car was imported in from the UK (United Kingdom) eight years ago by the previous owner and was maintained very well. It is a powerful car and a joy to drive. If I’m not mistaken, it is the only one in Singapore.

It is powerful! It is a 4200cc automatic car with 6 cylinders, producing 245 bhp. This was a massive achievement in the 60s!

Due to the presumption that Jaguars and Daimlers are costly to maintain, we don’t see many imports of the classics. On the contrary, parts can be readily bought on the internet and shipped to Singapore and doesn’t cost as much compared to modern day cars.

Fun Fact: The Daimler Sovereign 420 was a car built for royalty and was in production from 1966 to 1968, making this a rare collectible.

You also own a Cow and Tiger-themed VW Safaris. Is there a story behind them?

Cow(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

I saw a green Volkswagen Safari that my friend had and it was love at first sight. The one I bought was white and I decided that I wanted to lighten up the vehicle and stray it away from the bad memories of war. So that was when the cow theme was born. In case you didn’t notice, I gave it a tail too!

Fun Fact: It was the vehicle that Nazi officers rode in during WW2. It has a rich history and was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and Volkswagen. The initial vehicle was called Kublewagen and was built for the Nazis.

Any interesting/funny reactions you’ve gotten from your VW Safaris?

Photo 2020 08 21 12 02 20(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

Everyone wants to take a picture with it haha! When I’m on the road, I get a few thumbs up from motorists at traffic light junctions too.

What is your favourite brand to date?

The BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH). They have kept to their motto ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine/Sheer Driving Pleasure’. It really is sheer driving pleasure no matter how old they are. The current e32 and e36 I have are over 30-years-old but they are very comfortable to drive, easy on corners and U-turns. It is still luxurious and a joy till today!

You have quite an extensive collection. If you could only drive one car for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Img 6893(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

Well I have my favourite saloon BMW 1992 e36 but it is a manual. I guess for the rest of my life, I don’t think my legs would be able to depress the clutch at an old age haha! I would love to have a BMW e36 Auto and better yet, with a soft top convertible as a daily ride. I’ll be the coolest grandpa in future!

What is the most difficult thing about owning a classic car?

You may not get what was promised from overseas dealers and end up having difficulty getting the car registered. The repair works might cost you more than what you bargained for too.

My advice is to explore local options, take your time to find one and look out for what the owner has already done on it. Alternatively, join the many classic car groups locally and join us for the meetups. You will see many of these cars and, who knows, you might find the one for you. The owners will gladly let you adopt them when they know you are sincere collector.

However, be ready to maintain them with occasional breakdowns but usually if you maintain them well you should have a worry-free ownership with just the usual wear and tear. Parts are readily available for classic cars all over the world.

Any tips for maintaining classic cars?

Photo 2020 08 21 14 33 17(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

Send your car for regular servicing, change out worn parts, drive it monthly to keep the parts running well so they don’t harden while sitting still for too long. Join classic car groups to learn, share experiences and get tips! From my experience, the classic car community is very friendly and helpful.

What should one look out for when they want an imported car?

Photo 2020 08 21 14 33 16 2 (Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

Rust! Please avoid cars with rust. Rust can be fixed but they usually come back and haunt you. It’s like cancer.

Also, ensure the chassis and engine information tally with the log cards. If you are unsure, ask a local dealer with experience so you don’t get hoodwinked!

Lastly, check the Land Transport Authority (LTA) website on requirements and taxes so that you know you are ready to take on the journey.

Being an avid car enthusiast and the director of your own motor company for many years, what are your thoughts on the car community in Singapore?

Photo 2020 08 21 14 33 16(Photo: Kenneth Mark Yong)

I think the classic car community is slowly growing and more people are appreciating these cars. I’ve noticed teens and young adults from 18 to their late 20s already having this interest. They find modern day cars too predictable and that’s a good sign that these classic cars should be preserved!

It’s great that our local government supports owning these cars by giving reasonable road tax. Of course, the trade-off of only being able to drive 28 days a year and the extension of another 17 days. In the next 20 years, Singapore may be phasing out petrol cars but we do hope that these classic cars can still be allowed on the roads as they are hardly driven. This could be our heritage like pre-war shop houses and national monuments.

There should be more recognition for these classic cars as they are part of our country’s rich history. In the meantime, I do hope to see more people owning these beautiful cars and appreciating their rich history.

To see more of Kenneth’s restoration works and stunning cars, check out Love Classic Rides' Instagram and website. Or, if you are interested in classic cars, join their group on Facebook! You’ll be amazed by how old-timey classics could look so sexy!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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